Why People Volunteer

By McDonald, T.  |  Date 3 of August 2019

Charities are taking over the high street and all of them have volunteers. What kind of people volunteer and why?  While I have been volunteering, I took note of the people and the reasons why they volunteer. I found four main categories of people in the volunteer sector: academics wishing to gain hands on experience; people wish to give something back to the community; peers who wish to support one another through an experience; people looking to escape loneliness.

Academics Gaining Experience

I found academics volunteering for one main reason: experience. For instance, the volunteer police force gives people experience to go with their degrees in psychology and criminology. In a different type of volunteer role, students in management gain experience of how an organisation is run through volunteering in shops or charities aimed at supporting people with special needs. Charities have lots of interesting positions; subsequently, students on postgraduate degrees volunteer for charities to build up their hands-on experience in any given area such as retail management or market research. Obviously, the type of subject the student is studying for has a huge bearing on the type of charity you will find them in. In other words, if you are volunteering overseas, you are more likely to meet a student doctor than a student retailer. Not only do charities offer a variety of practical experiences, they also offer transferable skills such as working in a team, which is extremely useful to many academics. As a result, if you volunteer or work in a charity, you will likely find yourself alongside academics gaining work experience if you are not an academic yourself.

People Giving Back To The Community

Another group I found were people wanting to give something back to the community. Sometimes a person feels the need to give something back to the community and volunteering is one such way of achieving that. Giving back to the community is a way that someone can show their gratitude for help or support that they have received, or they are just grateful that a community exists at all. For instance, when returning to health after a long-term illness, a person may wish to volunteer at a charity that raises money for people with that illness. In other circumstances, someone may have been unemployed for a length of time. Whatever the reason a person wishes to give back to the community, volunteering is a great way to do that. Subsequently, if you volunteer you may yourself do so because you want to give back to the community or you know someone that does.

Supporting Each Other

Other people I found were looking to support each other through challenging times. The modern high street has many charity shops such as the British Heart foundation, Cancer Research, RSPCA and the Salvation Army. For example, people affected by Cancer may want to be around other people in the same position; drawing comfort from working together as a team in order to support one another through a shared experience. Likewise, people with heart conditions may like to be around other people with similar conditions. In another case, people may share an interest in animals or may have lost a pet. For whatever the reason, people often like to be around others going through a similar experience because they feel that no one else will understand. For this reason, people often volunteer for a charity that reflects their situation; If you work, volunteer or are thinking of volunteering for a charity, you likely have chosen one that supports people in your situation. Similarly, if you are thinking about volunteering or working for a charity you will likely investigate opportunities within charities connected to your circumstances or that affect your loved ones.

Beating Loneliness

I found people looking to escape loneliness. Working life can furbish us with many friends, but when a person retires, they may lose many if not all those friends, which results in one thing: loneliness. To counteract this problem, some people like to volunteer. It is a real possibility that you will make new friends with people from all walks of life. It is also likely that you will meet someone trying to escape loneliness or just needing to get away from their home for a bit. Furthermore, volunteers often make friends with people in similar situations and meet people from the local community. If someone finds themselves at home a lot for whatever reason, volunteering seems like a good idea because you can meet people and raise money for a worthwhile charity. I have volunteered with many people that said that it has stopped them from feeling lonely and that they look forward to coming in.

To reiterate, work experience, giving back to the community, peer support and beating loneliness are all reasons I have heard people give for volunteering. If you volunteer, you most probably have heard the same or similar reasons for volunteering from you colleagues or these reasons resonate with yourself. Consequently, if you are looking to volunteer, it may well be because of one or more of these reasons.


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